As I’m sure it’s a question on many, (if not most), minds of people, (least of all mid-20 year-olds) – lately the question of “What do I want to do?” has been with me. It may be more accurate to say that this is the question plagued me by others, “What do you want to do?,” and it extends to myself asking the question of myself. The problem is that I think it is the wrong question, at least in a certain sense. I think that the question is more appropriately asked, “What does the world need from me?” I find this similarly phrased question more apt because it adds a certain magnitude, meaning, and purpose to doing whatever it is. It takes a selfishness away from the question and extends the scope out beyond that of the egoistic. It takes into account other beings. This new rendition of the question has the power to turn away from the egoic side of one’s nature so that one may be able to serve the place in which one stands. The egoic has the capacity to look away from the plight of others for the sake of one’s advancement. To place that aside adds a growing element of sight into the human condition of the day and age.
However, the placing aside of the egoic is not to destroy the egoic in this question, but to move towards its transformation. When it is placed to the side, sat at a seat other than the captain’s, it may be used. It is the egoic that asks the question, “What do I want to do?” If it is never placed to the side, it cannot learn what the right thing is to do because that is not it’s function. The egoic does put forward the need to do for oneself. To put that aside, one begins to see that what one initially did for oneself did not come from one’s conscience – it did not come from the place within us that seeks to follow what we know within our hearts to be right and true. When this is seen, the egoic can become friend to that which is right and true to oneself, to serve a greater function in oneself. A person can begin to want to do what is truly right, to follow another guiding principle.
So, to ask what the world needs from oneself. Here, one may immediately look towards the suffering of the world. This is a righteous approach. There appears no end to humanity’s suffering. There are innumerable killings, countless wars, people are starving, taken advantage of, without shelter, raped, pillaged, and abused. There are countless injustices done towards racial groups, religious groups, sexual groups, classes, children, parents, communities, states, countries, continents, and more. People are afraid their religion and livelihood since they were children are being thrown to the wayside. They are afraid that their governments do everything they can to destroy groups of humanity. They are afraid for the millions of displaced refugees spreading across the planet. They are afraid for the future of their children’s education being taken over by outside entities. They are afraid that a government will control every aspect of their lives. They are afraid that the arts, humanities, and music will be devalued and eliminated. They are afraid that entire cultures are evaporating from existence, and their customs becoming appropriated by other groups that know nothing about them. They are afraid that radical groups of people will anarchically destroy towns and cities, burning them to the ground in order to start a new socialist or some other type of world order. They are afraid that the capitalist patriarchy will continue to oppress the world to oblivion so that the elite can continue to live cozy lives on the backs of their enslaved “employees.” They are afraid that their jobs will be taken from the towns they grew up in and moved to the cities – their factories torn down, and mines shut. The list can go on and on seemingly ad infinitum. What is to be done?
In the face of all these problems I find myself frozen. There are just so many of them. Unfortunately, many of them are tossed aside for problems that are “more important,” especially by others who find their identity in a particular societal problem. To take on all the world’s problems is to be crushed like an ant. So perhaps one should, instead, take on a specific problem. However, as soon as one problem is taken on, you find that they seem to all be connected, like they are branches of the problem tree, and many times they appear to be opposing problems, creating opposing sides. Without appropriate mental stability this then crashes down on our psyches. However, problems tend to present themselves in our lives. If they grow to a certain extent in our consciousness, we feel them pressuring us to take action, and perhaps we begin to try to do something about those problems.
What within us decides to take on a problem? What finds a problem problematic? Are these even questions that we ask ourselves? Do we take on a problem because we truly feel in our hearts the need to do something about it, as if the universe is requesting our assistance? Or, do we take on a problem because their is something that we identify with in the problem? Democrats are obliterating Conservative, Christian values so I have to fight against them. Capitalism is destroying the world and its resources so I need to do something about it. Muslims are terrorizing the world so we need to make sure they do not enter our country. Leftists and social justice warriors are taking over the main stream media, universities, and the government, and people are losing their freedom of speech so I need to speak up against that. White people are oppressing people that look other than them so I need to protest. Cis-gendered patriarchy is oppressing LGBTQ+ and women’s rights across the globe.
It is here that I find the egoic secretly creeping its way into our psyches to take center stage in a discreet manner. It is here that I find myself relinquishing control over to that which identifies as something particular about the world. The Subjectivity Wars. The take over of object consciousness. The egoic identifies as something, and fights that which thinks is killing it – that which is the opposite of what it identifies as. This is a never-ending battle. The ego is that which identifies itself. If in identifying itself as something, and something else is perceived as threatening to that subjective view of itself, then a problem emerges. Identity as something automatically posits the problems. When the problem solving of the world is relinquished for just a moment, I cannot take the pressure on myself. I cannot stand to the simple fact of myself.
Enter my place in the world. I find the world needs to be purified, cleansed of the waste that is inhabiting it. But this waste is of an old order, it is mental waste, a waste of past thought come to hold contemporary minds in a mental prison. This waste is one that lacks foresight and vision into the reality of oneself. As a people, we have forgotten how to clean up after ourselves, how to let a day of work and play end with the gathering of toys and tools back into the sheds of the closet and mind. We’ve allowed our mental waste to spill over onto the planet where garbage is seen everywhere and especially where one does not want to look. Can I simply learn to clean up after myself? Can I start with my living place and work outwards?
This is the work that the earth calls upon me. It is a cleaning and making room. It is an organizing of the attic that is cluttered with useless junk. It is the recycling of the old mental pathways to make way for a new way of being in oneself and the world. I am called to the present moment to look around at the situation I find myself in and simply to begin, and when I find myself overcome, to take a few minutes of rest and learn the courage to begin again.
It is too much for any one person to look to the horizon and think that to be the place which one must already be standing. The eye tells a lie that is seldom taken notice of. Time is a living part of this being that I am. Time lives and moves as water from the highest altitudes downstream into the rivers and back to the oceans. Time is temporal and thus there is timing. How to find our timing? How to learn where in this life which has been granted me that I am at? There must open an attention that reaches out to the sensations and feelings of this life. To know my age. To know that I am and exist in an unknown mystery.
This being that I am has the capacity to befriend the egoic side of my nature. In befriending this part that is for itself, one can learn the pathway to a transformation that makes the for itself a for the whole. The part finds itself in the whole of existence as part and parcel of a shared existence with that which surrounds it. There is a calling out to take note that giving attention to what is near lends over to the direction leading to what is beyond. One finds that steps must be taken, and timing must not be paralyzed because the egoic believes itself to be greater than the first steps of life. Bravery and courage become tested and the greater life can begin to open up.
To give attention. One need not be brought down by the idea of paying attention. In this world, the cost of needed worldly goods is too much. The costs are so great that we destroy our internal selves with depression and confusion. There is so much we are told to pay our attention to that we lose control and understanding of what is essential about attention. Instead, we must learn to give attention, and this giving must first and foremost be to ourselves, and ourselves must always be included in its vision. It is here that we are lost. We are lost in the world primarily because we have lost ourselves to the world.
We have forgotten how to love ourselves. There is so much given to the grasping for someone else’s attention that we have forgotten what it is to give ourselves attention. This attention is the first inpouring of our love for ourselves. It is difficult beyond belief to begin to let this loving attention enter our being. But it can be done. It can flow into our bodies, our emotions, and our minds first like a trickle, and gradually becoming a river until we become love for ourselves. It is difficult for us to see that these first steps on the journey to the health of the life we find ourselves together in is the health of our own minds and bodies. It is a health that has little to nothing to do with the outside world beyond the interior atmosphere that we find ourselves it. Just to sit and listen to the hidden language of the internal environment that has been given us.
With the egoic habitually looking outwards and living for itself, garnering the attention it desperately needs from others besides oneself, the initial look is painful. It is a sight one cannot stand. It is the look that teaches the courage to face oneself and all that one is. It is a look that the egoic cannot stand because it demands an effort that it does not yet know how to give. This effort comes from a place long forgotten within ourselves. It is a heroic effort. It comes from a place that has been sucked dry by an eternity of forgetfulness. It is the source and origin that has been turned away from. The ground of one’s own being. The egoic that looks for attention without this individual effort is initially too much, and the squelched heart of one’s existence is pained at being given its appropriate nutrition. It takes a time to remember that which gives life to this life that I am. I must grow again from a seed that has been dormant longer than time itself.
The egoic must look away, because it cannot know such a place completely, it can only listen to it. The source of one’s interior life is that same source for all life. It is for everything and all beings because it is that Being from which gives the breath of life. Being for all, it is necessarily not the egoic which is only for itself, only a part. The egoic only has life because of this source. So it must step down from center stage. Learn to submit to that which I truly am. That which is connected to all life and is for the universe itself. The egoic can learn to be for that. The power given to the egoic can be useful and needed for the saving of this life we all live together. But it must first give in to the life of the Being, to serve.
It is difficult to truly serve because it requires a complete 180 in how we live our lives. It requires us to listen before acting. To listen to that which speaks within and without. To listen in order to understand. To let one’s own opinions die in order to be reborn in an instant with the ever-renewing influx of knowledge. This service requires one to let go of our past dogma and to be able to hear the heart of what another is truly saying, to look past the surface to the depth. To take the diamond out of the words of all life, even if that diamond is surrounded by a mountain of dirt and garbage.
So, what is needed from me? I find that the answer to this question changes with each passing moment. I find myself in a dry place, where all seems barren. I find myself without a clue as to what sort of job I should look for, what sort of charity I can do, what sort of help my neighbor needs. I find my space dirty. Perhaps what is needed of me is to truly look around for once. To give the attention afforded this being that I am to that which is in my immediate vicinity. Not to assume the surface of things to be true but to look towards the depth of the situation for the nugget of gold. To give of myself as a service and in learning to give, perhaps I can begin to find the courage to give more. Perhaps in this direction, I can begin to live the life given to me, to create a diamond from this rough clump of carbon. Perhaps all that is needed from me is to learn to love myself and all that I am and capable of, and in such a gesture give to the universe what has been given to me to be.